Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho took a swipe at his players for not being good enough after a 1-0 defeat at Brighton and Howe Albion on Friday that secured the Seagulls’ place in the Premier League next season.
Mourinho made six changes to the side that secured a last-gasp win over Arsenal last weekend, and was punished as Pascal Gross’s second-half header secured Brighton’s first win over the Red Devils since 1982.
Chants of “We are staying up” rang around a packed Amex Stadium at fulltime as victory moved Brighton up to 11th and more importantly eight points clear of the bottom three.
With third-bottom Southampton and 17th-placed Swansea to meet on Tuesday, Brighton have effectively avoided the drop.
“I felt that we’ve deserved to stay in this league for our season’s work,” said Brighton boss Chris Hughton.
“But if we’d lost today and the next two, it would have been a real feeling of injustice had we gone down. So relief that we’ve done it now, but I’m also really proud of a group of players.”
By contrast, defeat means United must wait to secure second as they remain five points clear of Liverpool with Tottenham a point further adrift.
And the United boss, whose side take on his former club Chelsea in the FA Cup final two weeks from now, made his feelings known.
“Today I think was a clear difference in the desire to fight for the targets,” said Mourinho, whose side missed the chance to all but secure second place in the Premier League behind champions Manchester City.
“They clearly showed that, for them, it’s more important for them to stay in the Premier League than for us to finish second. They showed it from the first minute, and we didn’t show that.
“I am disappointed because second is important for me. I’m not sure every one of my players is disappointed.
“For many months you are always asking me why this player doesn’t play? Why that player doesn’t play? Why this player is on the bench? Why always Lukaku?
“I know my players better than you, and probably you don’t know them so well to be always with these questions.”
The defeat also means City can now break United’s record winning margin of 18 points from the 1999/2000 season should they win their remaining three games.